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Ukraine war latest: Russia preparing to mobilize additional 300,000 troops by June, Kyiv says

by The Kyiv Independent news desk April 3, 2024 10:15 PM 7 min read
Ukrainian marines prepare to train in urban warfare techniques in bilateral military exercises with the U.S. on Sept. 16, 2014 near Yavorov, Ukraine. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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Key developments on April 3:

  • Zelensky: Russia preparing to mobilize additional 300,000 troops by June
  • Ukraine, Finland sign long-term security agreement
  • Zelensky: Russia launched over 4,000 missiles, Shahed drones, guided aerial bombs on Ukraine in March
  • Military intelligence: Russia has roughly 200 Su-34, Su-35 jets, 7 A-50 planes
  • Politico: Allies consider moving Ramstein group under NATO control to shield it from Trump

Russia is preparing to mobilize an additional 300,000 troops by June 1, President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a joint press conference in Kyiv with Finnish President Alexander Stubb on April 3.

Ukraine's military intelligence said in mid-March that Russia would likely to ramp up its mobilization efforts after Russian President Vladimir Putin secured his fifth term in office in the rigged election in March.

Putin signed a decree on March 31 to conscript 150,000 people as part of the regular spring conscription campaign. According to the U.K. Defense Ministry, Russia is likely recruiting around 30,000 people per month.

Ukraine has also introduced an updated mobilization bill to parliament as it tries to bolster its defense against Russia's war.

Answering a journalist's question about how many troops Ukraine plans to mobilize this year, Zelensky said that "we don't need half a million" but refused to provide a specific number.

Zelensky said back in December 2023 that the original version of the mobilization bill called for a draft of 450,000-500,000 additional conscripts. Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on March 29 that this number has been "significantly reduced."

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Ukraine, Finland sign long-term security agreement

President Volodymyr Zelensky and Finnish President Alexander Stubb signed a 10-year security agreement between Ukraine and Finland on April 3.

According to the agreement, Helsinki will provide Kyiv with long-term military and financial assistance. The two countries are also expected to deepen political, financial, reform, and humanitarian cooperation.

Zelensky said the agreement "proves Finland's readiness to continue supporting Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression."

Finland will reportedly help in rebuilding Ukraine's energy sector, assessing environmental damage caused by the war, and strengthening the protection of borders and critical infrastructure.

Ukraine has also signed bilateral security agreements with the U.K., Germany, France, Denmark, Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands. The agreements are based on a Group of Seven (G7) pledge made in July 2023.

Stubb also announced its 23rd defense aid package for Ukraine worth 188 million euros ($200 million) on April 3, bringing Finland's total military aid for Ukraine to around 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion).

As with the previous tranches, Helsinki did not reveal the content of its most recent package for security reasons.

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Zelensky: Russia launched over 4,000 missiles, Shahed drones, guided aerial bombs on Ukraine in March

Russia used over 4,000 missiles, Shahed drones, and guided aerial bombs against Ukraine in March, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on April 3.

Russian forces reportedly launched over 400 missiles of various types, 600 Shahed drones, and 3,000 guided aerial bombs.

"Ukrainian cities and villages are suffering from this terror," Zelensky said, emphasizing that Russia's attacks are overwhelmingly brutal for communities near the front line.

Zelensky also highlighted Russia's incessant attacks on Kharkiv: "This is daily abuse and pain, (there are) daily losses in the city," Zelensky said.

Russian forces have destroyed nearly all of Kharkiv's energy infrastructure, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on April 1.

On March 29, the state-owned energy company Centrenergo reported that Russian troops had destroyed the Zmiiv thermal power plant in Kharkiv Oblast during a recent large-scale attack.

"This will not happen when Ukraine receives reliable air defense systems that can save the lives of our people and restore security to our cities. Patriot (air defense systems) in the hands of Ukrainians have proved that all forms of Russian terror can lose."

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Military intelligence: Russia has roughly 200 Su-34, Su-35 fighter jets, 7 A-50 planes

Russia has roughly 100 Su-35 fighter jets, over 100 Su-34 fighter bombers, and seven A-50 early warning and control aircraft as of March, ArmyInform reported on April 3, citing data provided by Ukraine's military intelligence (HUR).

Ukraine said it downed 13 Russian aircraft in only two weeks in February. This is the biggest number of planes the country managed to destroy in a single month since October 2022, according to the Defense Ministry.

This list included 10 Su-34 fighter bombers, two Su-35 fighter jets, and one more rare A-50 military spy plane. Another A-50 aircraft was downed a month prior.

Three of the seven Russian A-50s are undergoing repairs and modernization, according to the HUR.

"Two (planes) are at the Beriev Aircraft Company plant in Taganrog, and one at the Ulyanovsk airfield, at the Aviastar aircraft factory," ArmyInform reported.

Yurii Ihnat, the former Air Force's spokesman, attributed the uptick in the number of downed aircraft to air defense systems supplied by Ukraine's allies, which reportedly can be moved closer to the border or the front line after a decision of the military leadership.

Russia's total losses during the all-out war amount to about 672 aircraft — 347 planes and 325 helicopters, according to Ukraine's General Staff.

The General Staff's figure could not be independently verified.

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Politico: Allies consider moving Ramstein group under NATO control to shield it from Trump

Washington and its partners are considering moving the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG), also known as Ramstein format, under NATO control to maintain weapons supplies to Kyiv even if Donald Trump returns to the White House, Politico reported on April 2, citing four undisclosed sources.

The allies are expected to discuss this and other options of protecting aid to Kyiv from a potential second Trump presidency during a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels on April 4, Politico said with reference to three European officials and a U.S. official.

Former U.S. President Trump and the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for the 2024 presidential run have long criticized the U.S. aid to Ukraine, a position in line with his "America First" foreign policy views.

The ex-president claimed that he would be able to negotiate peace in Ukraine within 24 hours, although he did not elaborate on concrete steps to achieve this. In February, Trump suggested that the U.S. should provide funding to Ukraine as loans rather than aid.

Trump also raised concerns among NATO allies when he said he would encourage Russia to do "whatever the hell it wants" to members who do not meet the 2% defense spending mark.

According to Politico, the allies proposed to finalize the transition of the UDCG under NATO's control during an upcoming Washington summit in July.

Another proposal on the table would see NATO being given a "more formalized seat at the table within the Ukraine group, as opposed to moving it under NATO control," the outlet wrote, citing one of the sources.

"Pulling this under NATO kind of isolates it from a Trump presidency, or even from a U.S. that might get distracted by China and can't keep it going or can't get his own funding act together," former Pentagon and NATO official Jim Townsend told Politico.

The U.S. Defense Department has not publicly confirmed such plans.

The UDCG comprises over 50 countries, including all 32 NATO members, and has been meeting regularly since April 2022 to coordinate military support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. The last meeting was held on March 19.

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